Why, yes, it is “the most wonderful time of the year,” and not just because of the holidays.

We are at the dawn of another snowmobiling season and there are a number of things to do to ensure that your first trip on the sled is a safe, legal and fun one.

Your beloved sled has been idle for several months, just waiting for the snow to fall. While you may want to hop on and hit the trails when the first substantial snow falls, you need to make sure it’s safe.

“Nobody, hopefully, just takes their sled from last year and heads out and rides it,” said Eric Newcomb, service manager at Reynolds Motorsports in Gorham. “The biggest mistake is not doing anything. People will leave gas in the engine all summer long and when they go start up the machine, they have problems.”

Newcomb says leaving gas in the engine can build up deposits in the carburetor, which allows less fuel to pass through and hampers performance.

Another good idea is to just walk around the sled and check for any signs of mice or squirrel nests that appeared over the summer.

You should check your battery, be sure all the suspension components, such as the bogey wheels, are in good shape and also check the ski runners.

“On the ski runners, make sure the carbides bite into the snow and ice so the snowmobile can turn,” said Newcomb. “The sliders are what the tracks ride in. Make sure there is plenty of material left, because if you don’t, your track chews into the suspension rail and that is not a good thing.”

Also, check the condition of the throttle, and make sure you have a spare belt and spark plugs on hand in case of a breakdown on the trail.

If you aren’t mechanically inclined, most local shops will do a preseason checkup that usually includes changing the chain case oil and adjusting the drive train. Typically, this kind of service costs less than $200 and any other needed repairs are extra.

“We’ve been doing preseason checks now for over a month because people would hope that it would snow early. However, the majority of people will wait until the first big snowstorm and then say, ‘I want it done yesterday,’” said Newcomb.

If your sled needs more than just a preseason check, most mechanics provide an estimate on what should be done.

STAY LEGAL

It is something you might not even think about until you are issued a summons by a game warden — the snowmobile registration.

Before the first snow falls, make sure your sled is registered. It is required by law and if you are summonsed for operating an unregistered snowmobile, the fine could be around $130.

In addition, Bob Meyers, executive director of the Maine Snowmobile Association, believes it is good luck to register your sled early. “If people register their sleds early, then it will snow early,” said Meyers.

HAVE FUN

Maine has more than 14,500 miles of trails located mostly on private land and more land has recently opened up.

Roxanne Quimby, former owner of Burt’s Bees, owns several thousand acres in the Katahdin area. She has re-opened some of her land to allow local snowmobile clubs to do a reroute of ITS-85 — part of the Maine’s Interconnected Trail System — bringing the trail closer to the East Branch of the Penobscot River.

The reroute will shorten the trip between East Millinocket and the Matagamon area.

“We are hoping for lots of snow this season and there appears to be a lot of snow in many areas,” said Meyers. “The clubs are gearing up and doing last-minute work. As soon as we start receiving reports from the clubs, we will be posting trail conditions on the website (www.mesnow.com).”

News of Maine’s excellent trail system has spread across the country, as well as around the world.

Meyers said he recently received requests for Maine snowmobile trail maps from a person in Ohio and another in Sweden.

Cathy Genthner is a registered Maine Guide licensed by the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife to guide snowmobile trips. She is the owner of River Bluff Camps in Medford and may be reached at:

[email protected]